SAN FRANCISCO—After years of software-based funding and tedious development, the crowdfunding tide is turning toward hardware. At International CES, held Jan. 6- 9, officials from Indiegogo said companies throughout the chip and gadget ecosystem are getting on board.
“Everyone from Foxconn to Qualcomm want to talk to entrepreneurs...and offer them all the resources so they can make great products. That’s a new thing," Evan Cohen, Indiegogo's senior director of design, technology and hardware, told EE Times. "The whole maker movement has matured into an entrepreneur movement at this point."
More than 110 products at this year's CES started on Indiegogo, CEO Slava Rubin said, adding that the company has raised over $800 million in campaigns. Rubin believes one out of six companies on the CES show floor received funding from an Indiegogo campaign.
Direct conversations with larger companies are leading to a serious advancement in developer tools for the Arduinos and Raspberry Pis commonly used by startups, Cohen said. Companies such as Brookstone and GE are also getting in on some of crowdfunding's benefits—market validation of otherwise unknown products and a built-in audience—with a recently announced enterprise crowdfunding from Indiegogo.
"The higher-up enthusiasm toward the startup world is really exciting. There was a time where you were a maker and you were lucky to get in front of somebody," Cohen continued, adding that Intel, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments have developed proprietary tool sets so entrepreneurs can easily scale their chip designs.
2015 also saw the appearance of a number of accelerators, incubators, and clubs that are developing resources for hardware startups. Additionally, open source protocols such as IFTTT (If This Then That) have helped unify fragmented Internet of Things devices.
As a result, developers and engineers are shifting their designs from individual users to family users. "In the last 3 years [developers] did a great job building the core uses of [connected devices]. Now they're trying to build out sharing and utilizing it with everybody else," Cohen said.
Today, the most popular crowdfunding projects are those that can be used with other people. Cohen pointed to the Kinsa smart thermometer, which received significant Indiegogo backing to track illness in communities. Kinsa built a crowd-sourced data network that allows thermometer users to note a temperature spike and make informed decisions on whether to take preventative measures against fever.
Developing the right hardware for mass manufacturing remains a problem as most developer boards aren't meant to fit in small wearables. Entrepreneurs want to build something that looks and feels like a real product, and Cohen alluded to forthcoming products and platforms from big chip manufacturers "that will really blow you away."
"The question now is what standard do they go with, is it Bluetooth, is it Wi-Fi, is it Zigbee?" Cohen questioned. "We're seeing modules that have all of them, but if you want to get to the smallest form factor you have to pick and stick with one."
Click through to see some of the most innovative products in the Indiegogo pavilion at CES 2016.
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